Missouri’s Incident Support Teams (MO-IST) have been one of the most requested mutual aid resources during recent natural disasters across the state. ISTs support the management of a disaster, large incident or multiple incidents when the complexity or span of control exceeds the local entity’s capacity to effectively manage the event. Simply stated, an IST can relieve some of the burden on local authorities by helping organize and manage while allowing the local officials to achieve and maintain a better overall perspective of the event. As the event stabilizes and transitions into recovery, the processes put in place by the IST are transitioned back entirely to the local jurisdiction.

ISTs can be utilized for large structure or wildland fires, mass casualty incidents, hazardous materials incidents, floods, natural disasters, large pre-planned events and exercises, as well as in support of any state Fire Mutual Aid activation.

While the Incident Support Team system across the country has historically comprised only fire service personnel, Missouri ISTs are designed to be multi-disciplinary teams, which may include fire, EMS, public works, public health, law enforcement and even the private sector.

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Following Super Storm Sandy, members of the Region D IST supported the Nassau County Emergency Operations Center on Long Island, N.Y.

This discipline mix enhances the all-hazard management approach, allowing for the utilization of subject matter experts depending upon the event or emergency.

Importantly, ISTs do not supersede the authority of the local incident command or requesting entity. The United States Fire Administration (USFA), which developed this program, has named these teams All Hazard Incident Management Teams (AHIMT); the participants in Missouri’s system have chosen to call Missouri’s teams Incident Support Teams to emphasize the concept that these teams are intended to support and not take over the management of a local incident response.

Overall command of any incident will ALWAYS remain with the local authority.

The objective of the ISTs is to assist the affected jurisdiction in meeting operational objectives by providing guidance, direction, and coordination. The team members’ expertise allows for cost effective incident management while fostering positive relationships. The incident management skills provided by the IST also allow multiple jurisdictions to communicate and work together to provide a more organized and focused response.

One of the most critical functions of an IST is providing both short-term and long-term planning capabilities. A requesting jurisdiction may rapidly become taxed in the handling of the immediate needs of the incident and documentation can quickly fall behind. The IST can complete situational and resource status documentation and an incident action plans (IAP) for each operational period. This documentation coordinated by the team can lead to a more effective recovery process.

When a Missouri IST is requested, the response team will be made up of members trained and organized to support disaster responses operating alongside the local incident commander/unified command (IC/UC) utilizing the National Incident Management System. The response includes staffing to provide for constant operations, usually covering two 12-hour shifts (operational periods) per day. Team components include command and general staff, which mirrors the incident command structure. The IST recognizes the value of local expertise and will incorporate local participants into the management structure to ensure the most successful outcome.

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Members of the Region F IST participate in the Vigilant Guard Exercise, November 2012.

A Missouri IST is designed to be operationally and logistically self-sufficient for 72 hours to avoid burdening the already taxed requesting jurisdiction.

The teams are the Southwest Missouri Incident Support Team, the Region C Incident Support Team (St. Louis region) and the Region F Incident Support Team (central Missouri). They will, however, respond to requests for assistance statewide.

Continued local and regional IST development in Missouri is being encouraged.

Requests for deployment of an Incident Support Team (IST) should be made through the Statewide Fire Mutual Aid System.

For more information about the Missouri Incident Support Teams, contact Acting State Fire Marshal Greg Carrell or Sherril Gladney, who may be reached at MutualAid@dfs.dps.mo.gov or (573) 751-1601.